John Brebeuf


Born on March 25, 1593 at Conde-sur-Vire, Normandy, France, John Brebeuf attended the university at nearby Caen, was a farmer on his parents' farm, and in 1617 joined the Jesuits at Rouen. He was ordained in 1622 after tuberculosis had almost ended his aspirations to the priesthood. He was sent to Canada at his request in 1625 and labored among the Huron Indians there for the next 24 years despite great opposition from the Huguenots, trading company officials, and renegade Indians. His stay there was interrupted when the English captured Quebec in 1629 and ousted the Jesuits. He returned to France, was the Treasurer at the college in Eu, and then returned to the missions in 1633 when the English returned Canada to the French. When a smallpox epidemic killed thousands of Indians in 1637, the missionaries were blamed by the medicine men of the tribes for the disaster, but Brebeuf stayed with the Indians until 1640, when he went to Quebec. He remained there for four years and then returned to the Indians. He was captured by the Iroquois Indians, the bitter enemies of the French and Hurons. On March 16, 1649, near Georgian Bay, he was cruelly tortured for hours until he died.

Known for his holiness and courage, John Brebeuf was resposible for some seven thousand conversions among the Indians. He composed a dictionary and catechism in the Huron language. He was canonized in 1930.


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